The Thief Cometh (Part 2 of 2)

We left off discussing what the enemy is after in your life (faith), the importance of faith to you and God, the devil’s mission to steal and derail your faith, and the role hope plays in this walk of faith. We will carry on here and dive into four areas in this concluding piece – hopelessness, God’s mercy, the role God’s blood plays in His mercy, and our reaction when confronted with all three.

Hopelessness – God’s Pathway to Greatness?

From the surface, it appears that any hopeless situation one would encounter in life can offer no truly positive benefit or outcome. Is this a true statement? Let’s look into the lives of three Biblical examples (there are more) and see if it is.

The life of Jephthah is recorded in the Book of Judges (chapters 11 & 12). Jephthah entered his world with some major disadvantages. Jephthah was an illegitimate child, the son birthed between his father Gilead, and a harlot (Jdg 11:1). Because of this, he was rejected by his family and forced to flee home to the city of Tob. It looked like a hopeless situation for the young man. However, there came a time when the Ammonites decided to make war with Israel. (Note: Ammon, father of the Ammonites, was the offspring produced between the union of Lot and his youngest daughter (Benammi – “son of Lot” Gen 19:38), and like Jephthah, a complicated birth experience).

However, there was something burned in Jephthah’s spirit that distinguished him from his peers – according to the Bible, he was “a mighty man of valour” (Jud 11:1). That distinction got the attention of the elders of Gilead who asked Jephthah to become their leader in the defeat of the Ammonites. Jephthah accepted the offer, relocated back to his hometown of Gilead, and proceeded to singlehandedly (remember Samson?) defeat the children of Ammon (Jud 11:33).

What looked like a hopeless situation for Jephthah turned out to be his pathway to greatness. One interesting note is the translation of Tob (the city where Jephthah sought refuge from his shame and rejection) in Hebrew is the word “good” in English. Jephthah may have never understood how anything “good” could become of his life, but God has the ability to turn the tables of adversity around and shine His hope into the hopelessness of any situation.

Now, let’s turn our attention to another man in the Bible who also encountered a literal “hopeless” situation. His name is the Apostle Paul. Paul was on a voyage to Rome when a terrific storm named Euroclydon swept through the Mediterranean Sea and wrought havoc on those on the ship:

And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away. Acts 27:20

Note the Bible records that “all hope” was “taken away“. That describes a hopeless situation friend. And God allowed it. And He allowed it to happen to one of His chosen vessels. Why? It forced Paul to dig out something he had never excavated in his spirit – overcoming faith that summoned angels into a hopeless situation (Act 27:23-24). The end result was a miraculous deliverance, miraculous healings (Act 28:8-9), and the continuation of God’s perfect will for Paul’s life.

Lastly. let’s travel back in time to a place called Calvary in 33 A.D and observe this scene. What do we see? We see three men hanging on crosses. The man in the middle Is Jesus Christ, falsely accused of the crime of blaspheming God (Jhn 10:33). Jesus is flanked by two other men, thieves justly accused of crimes they did commit. It looked like a hopeless situation for all involved for they knew death was just moments away. But here is where something buried very deep inside of them is revealed no other way nor can it appear in any other fashion. What is this thing? It is called faith. Faith is very powerful. So powerful in fact that it can transcend the iron-bared chambers of life’s darkest, hopeless, and most inescapable caverns.

One thief (we can surmise on Jesus’ right hand) refused to be conquered by his hopelessness. How? By his faith in Jesus’ kingship, authority, and the promise of eternal life to those who believe in him. This thief simply believed Jesus’ words of hope:

And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. Luke 23:42

Amazingly, it was this condemned criminal (of all people) who brought strength and encouragement to the Savior of the world when he needed it most. The one thief asked Jesus for forgiveness. He believed in Jesus’ kingship and his message of the hope of eternal life. This one thief understood the reason for his punishment but was bewildered why Jesus, a perfect man in his thinking, was being unjustly punished for things he did not commit (Luk 23:41). One thief made a difference and it’s been written that this man had the revelation of Jesus’ deity (God in flesh) and his resultant power over death that his own disciples had not yet embraced (Luk 24:11; Mar 16:14; Joh 20:25). And this one thief asked for and received forgiveness including eternal life (Paradise – Luk 23:43). One thief had faith in Jesus’ message while the other rejected him:

And one of the malefactors who were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. Luke 23:39

The passage of time and its ensuing impact on life (Ecc 3:1-8) can be the catalyst for interesting and dramatic changes, even in hopeless situations. As these three examples show, it is not over until God says, “it’s over”!

Do not ever think that if you or someone you know facing hopelessness it is a curse, punishment, or judgment from God. In some cases that may be true. Even then, we must understand that God is always looking for the best outcome in any given situation. God’s desire is for ALL (that means everyone) to be saved! (II Pet 3:9) It has been said that God will always choose His mercy over judgment if, in his foreknowledge, the outcome will lead someone closer to him.

The Power of The Blood

The definition of power can be viewed from different angles. The classic dictionary defines the word “power” as the “ability to act or produce an effect, capacity for being acted upon or undergoing an effect” (Source: Merriam-Webster). In the physical realm, power can also be defined as the measurement of the rate of change to a physical state. In its most simplistic terms, something powerful can change something in a very short amount of time. Let’s use explosives as an example. The hammer of a toy cap gun can strike a small circle of red phosphorous and potassium chlorate (i.e., Armstrong’s mixture) meshed between a layer of thin tissue. The friction generated by the hammer strike will set off a small explosion and resultant heat that burns the cap tissue. The change is measured in the degree of energy (i.e., heat) generated and the force exerted by the expansion of gas generated by the small explosion.

Now. Increase the amount and chemical formula of the explosive material used in a toy cap gun to a more powerful compound such as TNT. TNT is a common explosive used in mining, military weapons, and oil extraction (i,e., hydraulic “fracking” and other applications). TNT is also a standard of measurement used to gauge the energy output of another destructive force – nuclear weapons. The nuclear explosion in WWII in Hiroshima, Japan was equivalent to 15kt (15,000 tons) of TNT. That bomb’s energy output was responsible for the immediate death of 70,000 civilians; wooden structures within 1 1/4 miles from its epicenter were immediately destroyed and wind speeds were 10x that of a Category 12 typhoon.

In these examples, we’ve moved from the physical change generated by a toy cap gun to that of a “powerful” nuclear explosion. The rate of change to the physical surroundings between a toy can gun in comparison to that of an atomic bomb in Hiroshima is astronomical – power as the measurement of the rate of change (i.e., effect) to the physical world.

Let’s move this discussion of power and its effect in transforming physical phenomena into a spiritual context. Medical science can perform many amazing transformations such as heart, lung, kidney, liver, pancreas, and intestine transplants. But ONLY God can perform a mind transplant! Only God knows our hearts. And God has the capacity to, in many instances, instantaneously change” a heart/mind from one that is destructive, depressed, evil, immoral, self-centered, guilt-ridden, jealous, bitter, perverted, or confused into a mind that is healed with thoughts infused with love, peace, joy, goodwill, compassion, kindness, gentleness and HOPE.

That is power in action. How does He do this? By washing you in the blood of Jesus through water baptism and by the infilling of his Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost! God’s spirit is powerful! And the blood of Jesus is the powerful agent that washes away all our sin and makes us, as the song of old says:

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

O precious is the flow
that makes me white as snow;
no other fount I know;
nothing but the blood of Jesus.

The morning after this section was written, I opened up a book I’d been reading (The Wisdom and The Power of The Cross) and this paragraph stared right at me:

“The ushering in of the nuclear age is a poor comparison to the historic moment of Christ’s resurrection when a powerful force of non-matter entered into the order of matter and energized molecules into life. Jesus’ resurrection is His title to headship.  He rose in might, power, and majesty”. As the author uses Jesus’ resurrection as an example, God’s power and His exercise over life simply cannot be produced or replicated by man-made devices or inventions. There is unmeasurable power in the blood and in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Heaven’s Mercy Seat – Mercy Perfected & Salvation Eternally Secured

For Jesus to come back from death a living, breathing human being one thing had to happen. It should be noted that Jesus was not some mystified, virtual-angelic manifestation of a human being after his resurrection. Jesus walked the earth in human form after his resurrection just like he did before his crucifixion (Luk 24:39-40, Joh 20:19-20, 27). Therefore, in the process of Jesus’ resurrection from death’s grip, somewhere during that process his body’s blood was regenerated. The purpose of bringing this up is when Jesus departed earth for the last time, he ascended to Heaven with blood flowing through his glorified body. So, when Jesus touched the mercy seat in Heaven, his blood in essence also touched that seat and forever sealed for us an “eternal” salvation (Heb 5:9).

Before the creation of the Heaven and the earth, God couldn’t manifest His mercy because the presence of a blood sacrifice is required to remit sins and is needed for the provision of mercy. Otherwise, God would have been obligated to offer that mercy to Lucifer and all of the rebellious angels. This was not possible. There was no provision for the forgiveness of sins in Heaven, never was nor never shall be. In God’s plan, the earth would be the location to heal the sin problem, the void sin created in Heaven (Lucifer’s rebellion), and the sins on earth (Adam’s original sin and its subsequent aftereffects). The Bride of Christ, Jesus’ church, when raptured will fill that void in Heaven. God has a plan, and His plan never fails.

The very word “mercy seat” has its origins in a word that refers to blood and its ability to forgive sins – propitiation. The Greek word propitiation used in Hebrews 9:5 is ἱλαστήριον (hilastērion) which is translated as “to atone for sin, mercy seat”. Propitiation is the price God determined that would cover the penalty for sin. Jesus, of course, was the propitiation for the sins of all mankind and Jesus paid the price for those sins when he laid down his life on the cross (Act 26:18; Rom 3:25; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14).

Blood & The Mercy Seat

Of all the attributes God embraces, mercy and love are perhaps two aspects of His being that are most glorious and magnificent. And love and mercy are twin sisters that appear numerous times together (10x) in the scriptures (Exo 20:6; Deu 5:10, 7:9; Neh 1:5; Dan 9:4; Mic 6:8; Eph 2:4; II jhn 1:3; Jud 1;2, 2:1).

As a sidebar, the number 10 is significant in the Bible (https://jesusalive.cc/number-ten-significance-in-bible/). Among other things, the number “10” is a number of completeness and appears in the Creation account, construction of the law and the tabernacle, God’s judgment (I Sam 25:38; Est 9:13), worship (Psa 92:3, 144:9), testing/trials (Dan 1:12, 14, 15; Rev 2:10), and the endtime (Dan 7:10, 20 & 24; Rev 5:11, 12:3, 13:1, 17:3, 7,, 12  & 16).

In addition to love, God’s mercy cannot be separated from one other thing – God’s blood. The O.T. provided a “temporary” way for God to show His mercy by forgiving the sins of His people for one more year. This was accomplished through the sacrifice of bulls, goats, and lambs as the shedding of blood were always God’s requirement for forgiving sins (Lev 16:34, 17:11).

According to God’s word we know that “things” existing on earth are simply examples, figures, and shadows of things already existing in Heaven. (Heb 9:9, 24). The animal (blood) sacrifice, the tabernacle, and the law on earth were already well established in Heaven. Only the completion of God’s will in time separated them from their eternal existence and ultimate prophetic fulfillment upon the earth.

A blood sacrifice was always a requirement to address the sin issue. And the presence of blood is also required for the exercise of God’s mercy. This is why the high priest would sprinkle the blood of a bullock and a goat on the mercy seat located in the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:14-15). Indeed, the very act of this “sprinkling” was a prophetic foretelling of the blood the coming eternal high priest, Jesus Christ (Heb 4:14, 5:9-10), would shed for the sins of all mankind (Heb 9:11-12, 9:22) and occupy the mercy seat in Heaven. Even the testimony of Jesus Christ is the spirit of prophecy (Rev 19:10).

The Blood Always Demands This One Thing

There is something about the precious, pure, perfect, priceless, and powerful blood of Jesus that cannot be dismissed. And that is the blood of Jesus always demands a response. When confronted with the sinless blood of the Perfect Lamb of God, a response will be demanded of you. It requires a decision of which there are only two possibilities – repentance or rejection (rebellion). We will either repent upon knowing the Savior shed his blood for our sins. Or we will reject and rebel against the blood’s effectiveness because of unbelief or impenitence.

A response was demanded from the two thieves next to Jesus as he hung on a cross bleeding from his hands, feet, and back. And they did respond. One made the right choice and the other a very bad one (Luk 23:39).

It All Comes Down To One Question – Which Thief Am I?

As mentioned in part 1 of this series, the cross of Jesus Christ is the defining event in human history. No other event in all of time compares to what transpired on Calvary’s hill – the death of our Savior, God manifested in flesh. And when confronted with the sinless blood that flowed from that cross, as with the two thieves surrounding Jesus, we too are forced to answer one question – Which thief am I?

You may ask: What are we stealing? We are stealing from God’s sovereign right over the totality of our being. Which is the complete and total surrender of our human will to His will. It always comes down to just one word and a big word at that. What is the word? It is CONTROL. It’s always about control – who is really in control over our lives, us or the Lord? If it’s us, then we are convicted as a thief in God’s court of justice and righteousness.

Self-will is nothing more than self, seeking the gold of glory – in self. It is the root of all evil and was the original sin. The original sin did not take place on earth. The original sin took place in Heaven when Lucifer desired to “steal” God’s glory (Isa 14:12-14). The original sin was the attempted theft of God’s glory. God called it iniquity (Eze 28:15). It is the sin of “seeking self-glory” (i.e., pride) and not seeking the God of glory, for the glory of God, who is worthy of ALL THE GLORY. And that same sin bled into the human race when Adam rebelled against God’s word.

There is purpose in life’s tumultuous and tragic happenings and times of sheer hopelessness. Out-of-control life situations reveal one thing – who truly is in control? At times the Lord brings storms to show that our trust must be in him and not in ourselves or in those around us.

Like the two thieves next to Jesus, there will be two groups of people at the end of time standing before God’s right and left hands. Like the one thief who asked for forgiveness, one group, the true believers who relinquish all self-control, will be redeemed and rewarded with eternal life. And one like the other thief, a group of unrepentant, unforgiving, unbelieving souls rewarded with a just sentence – God’s judgment (eternal death).

Shall He Find Faith?

There is a parable of Jesus recorded in the Book of Luke that we call the Parable of the Unjust Judge. Here is a situation where Jesus describes a real-life struggle between a judge and a poor widow who is facing a hopeless situation. However, this interplay between a cold professional and a broken widow is not the only message being communicated by the Lord. There is also an underlying thread of truth that Jesus wants to convey here. And it is the central subject weaving thru these two installments – the vital importance of faith, especially not losing faith during times of hopelessness. Here is the key verse:

I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8

There are at least two hidden questions Jesus is asking us in this verse: what kind of faith is he speaking of here and why will this be? From the surface, we generally assume Jesus is referring to faith “in general”, that is, will there be any faith at all upon the earth when Jesus returns? However, this is actually not the full essence of what Jesus is asking. We know this by looking at the word “shall” in the verse.

The English word “shall” is a translation of the Greek word ἆρα (ara) and appears only 3x in the N.T. (Strongs G687), and in each case, the word precedes a condition where a negative response is expected (see Acts 8:30 & Gal 2:17). Jesus is talking about “God faith” here, the kind of faith needed during the endtime, a time of great tribulation and chaos. To clarify the point, here are two other versions of the scripture:

I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?” Message Bible

Yet, the Son of Man having come, will He find the aforementioned kind of faith on the earth? Wuest

Jesus is asking if great faith, God-faith, white knuckled-like faith as the widow in the parable be present on the earth because of the state of hopelessness occurring during the tribulation period and endtime. Jesus also alludes to this same state of affairs when he stated that the opening of iniquity’s floodgates right before he returns will cause the love of many to “wax cold” (Mat 24:12).

When the curtain of time is drawn shut will I be the redeemed thief, repentant, asking for forgiveness, with overcoming faith, forgiving those doing the punishing, and believing in the One whose message of hope, truth, and light still reverberates throughout the hopelessness surrounding earth?

There will always be two thieves next to Jesus, one believing, yielding, and forgiven, the other unbelieving, self-willed, and unforgiven.

When faced with the precious blood of Jesus I must ask myself this one question: Which thief am I?

And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. Revelation 21:6-7